The LDS Restorationist movement,
including Mormon denominations>
History of LDS Restorationism: 1844 to now
Joseph Smith founded the original Mormon Church, The Church of Christ. It was not well received by the larger Christian denominations mainly because Smith had introduced The Book of Mormon as a second inspired book in addition to the Bible.
- Smith had introduced the practice of polygamy among Mormons.
A public Danite organization was formed in the Mormon community to organize
defense, construct homes and obtain provisions. In late 1838, serious levels of violence had broken out, as
the original European settlers attacked the Mormons; they were concerned that the LDS
might become a political majority in their locality. The attack appears to have started as a method of
preventing Mormons from voting. The state militia became involved. Sampson Avard,
who is believed to have been both a captain within the Danites and an officer in the
militia, persuaded his men to become a "covert renegade band" and to avenge
outrages against the Mormons. When Joseph Smith, founder and leader of the
church, heard of this group's illegal activity, he
removed Avard from command and disbanded his criminal group.
Faced with diminishing supplies, the approach of winter, an aggressive militia and an
anti-LDS extermination order from the Governor, the Mormons surrendered. The church moved
again. Their destination was Commerce IL, which Smith renamed Nauvoo in 1839. It was
there that a form of polygamy called polygyny was introduced.
This is the practice of a man taking more than one wife.
It has been variously called the Law of Abraham, or the Patriarchal Order of
Marriage, or Celestial Plural Marriage. Associated with these was the
Sarah -- the belief that a man's first wife must give permission for her
husband to marry again. Smith personally assigned
women to some of the Mormon men -- a practice that continues today among some of
the more fundamentalist small faith groups within the LDS Restorationist movement.
Sampson Avard, by then a Mormon dissident, became the star witness at a court of inquiry into the
conflict in Missouri. Under oath, he wove an fanciful tale, stating that it was the Mormon
Church which had organized a secret band to commit atrocities. He blamed the entire Danite
service group for the outrages. From his testimony, the legend of the Danites was created.
Over the next 60 years, more than 50 novels were published in English about the Danites -
including works by Arthur Conan Doyle, Zane Grey and Robert Louis Stevenson. The legend of
the Danites became imbedded in the public consciousness.
At the age of 38, Joseph Smith decided to run for the presidency of the US. He chose Rigdon
as his vice-presidential candidate. 1 A local newspaper
(the Nauvoo Expositor) was critical of his political platform, and revealed to their
readership that Mormons were practicing polygyny (a practice that Smith denied at the time).
In order to silence the opposition, he ordered his followers to destroy the presses.
In 1844, Joseph Smith
and his brother Hyrum were arrested for the crime. A mob later broke into the jail and
assassinated both of them.
Successor to Joseph Smith chosen:
As with many religious organizations, the death of the founder provoked a
serious problem. This was elevated to a crisis because Joseph Smith had left no
clear and unambiguous choice to be his successor. The
Twelve Apostles of the church prayed for guidance. They believed that
they received a revelation from
God that a reluctant Brigham Young (1801-1877) should be the second president of the
church. Another group within the church created the Reorganized Church of
Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (RLDS), now known as the
Community of Christ. The latter group's leadership was provided by Joseph
Smith III and Emma Smith (the son and wife of the founder). Smaller splinter groups
broke away at this time, including the Bickertonites, the Strangites and the
Church of Christ (Temple Lot). Others have split off since.
After Joseph Smith was assassinated, Sidney Rigdon was a logical choice as a
successor. However, he fell out of favor with
the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles and was excommunicated by Brigham
In 1846, Brigham Young led most of the church on a long and difficult 1,300
mile (2100 km) trip to the Great Salt Lake in
Utah, where they established Salt Lake City. Mormon anger against the Gentiles
(non-Mormons) remained high for many years. While in the mid-west, they had been continually
persecuted and even massacred by state governments and by non-Mormons wherever they had
settled. This state of tension continued in Utah between the settlers and the Federal
The Brigham Young group changed the capitalization in the name of
their church to The Church of Jesus Christ
of Latter-day Saints in 1851.
It was during a time of particularly high tensions that the Mountain
Meadows Massacre occurred: A group of local Mormons, aided by Southern Paiute
Indians, allegedly deceived and attacked a group of 137 pioneers who were attempting to
travel from Arkansas, through Utah, on their way to California in 1857. This
act triggered an even greater federal presence in Utah.
The Mormon practice of polygyny was countered by the federal government's Edmunds Act of 1882. Multiple attempts to
have Utah recognized as a state failed because of their marriage practices. In 1890, the Church
believed that it received a revelation from God that changed church beliefs and practices. The fourth
president of the Church, Wilford Woodruff, issued a manifesto (called the "Great
Accommodation"). It generally suspended the solemnization of plural
marriages for an indefinite period. In special cases, a few such marriages
continued to be sealed in secret among Mormon leadership as late as the 1920's. Utah
became a state in 1896, six years after the manifesto was issued. Many small Mormon splinter groups
who wished to continue polygyny formed at
this time; they were all excommunicated from the LDS church. The policy of automatic excommunication continues today.
Recent Mormon history:
Mormon groups in the state of Utah and in British Columbia, Canada still engage in polygyny. Polygyny is against the law
in theory but legal in practice in British Columbia. The Attorney General of the province
recently decided to not pursue a charge of bigamy against the inhabitants of a
largely Mormon town, because it would probably conflict with
the religious freedom provisions in the Charter of Rights and Freedoms --
Canada's constitution. The government realized that it would
probably lose any court case on constitutional grounds and establish polygamy on firm legal grounds.
During the 20th century, the LDS church maintained a dominant role in the state of Utah.
As of mid-2001, the Governor of Utah, and all of its Federal senators, representatives
and members of the state Supreme Court are all Mormons. 3
More federal political pressure was felt by the LDS church in the 1970's over the church's
institutionalized racism. Male Mormons who had any black ancestry were prohibited from
ordained on racist grounds. The church experienced pressure from the
U.S. Internal Revenue Service, sports groups, boycotts of church
businesses and Utah tourism. The church teaches that it received a new revelation from God in 1978-JUN which abolished racism within the church.
Male African-Americans are now regarded as full members of the LDS and are eligible to be considered for
ordination. Black women are still excluded, as are all women of all races. More details
In recent decades, the LDS was a main force defeating the Equal Rights Amendment which would have given women
rights equal to men in the U.S. More recently, the LDS was particularly dedicated to preventing
homosexuals from attaining equal rights, such as the right to enter into same-sex marriages. Mormons joined with Roman Catholics to contribute millions of dollars to the support of Proposition 8. This was a citizen initiative in Californian that withdrew the right to marry from same-sex couples in that state. The constitutionality of Prop 8 was later challenged in federal court where it was found to be unconstitutional. On 2015-JUN-26, the U.S. Supreme Court issued a ruling in the Obergefell v. Hodges case. Their decision expanded the institution of marriage across the nation to include same-sex couples. The only exception was American Samoa where most of its inhabitants are considered American residents, but not American citizens. They are not necessarily subject to decisions by the Supreme Court, and the territorial government has decided to not allow same-sex couples to marry at this time.
"Sidney Rigdon: A portrait of religious excess," 2think.org book
Richard S. Van Wagoner, "Sidney Rigdon: A portrait of religious excess,"
Signature Books, (1994).
reviews or order this book safely from Amazon.com online book store
K.L. Woodward, "A Mormon Moment: America's biggest homegrown religion
is looking more Christian. But it's still a different world," Newsweek,
Copyright © 1997 to 2017 by Ontario Consultants on
Latest update: 2017-APR.09
Author: B.A. Robinson